Thursday, 30 June 2011

New Betfair Premium Charge Disgrace

It's the talk of the trading world this week and although I'm a little slow off the mark in discovering this new piece of news, I certainly have plenty to say on the matter. For those who've not heard, Betfair are increasing their (already massively unfair) premium charge from 20% to an incredible top rate of 60% as of next month. Here are full details:

From 18th July 2011 Betfair will be making some changes to the Premium Charge. The current Premium Charge mechanism will remain in place but higher rates may now apply to a small number of customers (less than 0.1% of annual active customers).

Full details of the changes can now be found on the Betfair Charges page under the About Us section of the website. However, the changes can be summarised as follows:

• Customers will only be subject to Premium Charges at higher rates if they satisfy all of the following conditions:

o Lifetime net profits* exceed £250,000
o Lifetime commission generated less than 40% of lifetime gross profits
o Bet in more than 1,000 markets

• Customers that satisfy all of the above conditions will be asked to pay Premium Charges at rates between 40% and 60% on all future exchange activity.

All customers that will be affected by these changes have already been contacted.

I'm not going to go over old ground and write about the basic unfairness of the Premium Charge. We all know that it's pure greed, wrapped up in a fake moral and financial justification. We all know that Betfair (the company whose mantra was always based upon providing a place where winners were welcome) have become a greedy, bloated monopoly, who actually despise those who are successful. They cannot bear the way a select few have benefited from their exchange model to make fantastic money and will do whatever it takes to rob them of a slice of that profit. And why? Well just because they can. That's the benefit of having a monopoly.

But let's focus (and believe me, this is something I have no problem in focusing on!) on what this means for you and me, the average trader who doesn't make a big wage and the newcomers who aspire to one day be successful. Don't be fooled by the £250,000 threshold. If you were to make £25,000 a year from trading (the average wage in the UK today), it would take you 10 years till you begin to get charged. That might seem a long way off but I'm guessing that most of us would want to make more than the average wage. We will certainly want the option of being able to scale up our business and make a more comfortable wage. But let's say you are earning £25k every year and you are 20 years old. By the time you hit 30, you'll be getting charged potentially 60% for the next 40 years - your profit becomes just 10k per year! What if you built your trading up through years of hard slog from nothing and were eventually lucky enough to be making, say, £100,000 per year? It would be another 2 years MINIMUM before you were getting charged 60 GRAND A YEAR! Betunfair take the lion's share of your hard toil, all of it achieved through fair means, where you've given up your day job and taken huge risks financially.

They keep trotting out the old lines that it will only affect 0.1% of account holders and that they want to only penalise those who they feel are taking advantage and not contributing. In reality, that percentage is much higher because they are not just punishing the guys with fast pics, the courtsiders, the big syndicates with huge sums of cash and the boffins with bots. They are forgetting about the little guys, the average Joe at home with just a laptop, a free copy of The Geek's Toy and a Eurosport subscription. The majority of people who want to trade rather than gamble, which is what Betfair is built for, will have aspirations of becoming successful. So this charge affects EVERYONE who has ideas of going full-time.

So where does that leave me? Well, if I start earning £25k a year then I will be more than happy right now! But in a few years time, I'd like to think I will be averaging a fair bit higher than that. And you can bet your bottom dollar that this won't be the end of the unfairness. They have tripled the charge in just 3 years, whose to say what they will introduce in another 3 years? It means one of two things; I either need to completely reconsider taking on trading as a career or I need to find a way around paying the PC. If I was just a newcomer on the ladders, I would probably not even bother. But I've been through a year of hard-ship to get to the stage where I feel I can make it as a trader, so I'm not about to quit now. There are two ways around the PC; move to another exchange (i.e. Betdaq) or start losing more on Betfair to avoid the charge altogether.

There is a movement starting via Facebook which I would urge people to take a look at:

Betfair Fiasco Facebook Page

The big problem with this is that it may be fine for 'big players' and the long term profitable to boycott or move some of their money elsewhere but the likes of myself just can't afford to do that. And it's going to need a lot more than the small number of big players to move their money to make a big difference. It needs ALL of us traders at all levels to make the switch and that includes newbie gamblers who are just learning about trading. I believe it can be done but it's going to need a great deal of organisation and a big helping hand from Betdaq. I remain unconvinced that they are doing anywhere near enough to help drive people towards their site and away from Betfair. Maybe they are happy being second best? I'm sure they make enough from the customers they have to be very happy indeed. How much do they really want to upset the applecart and expand?

In all reality, the best thing that us new and aspirational traders can do is to start making it impossible for the PC to take affect in readiness for when we are consistently profitable. How do we do that? Take a read of this anonymous post, taken from Mark Iverson's Professional Sports Trader blog:

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark, no you are not missing anything. But this has nothing to do with fast paced trading. Say you start trading tomorrow. You make £10,000 in the first month. Great. Now you go and find a short priced favourite that you are fairly certain will win. Lay it for £5000 on Betfair and back it for £5000 on Daq (you are up £10k so you can do this). If it loses, you are up £15k on Betfair sure but if it wins as expected, you are now still £10,000 up but only £5000 up on Betfair. I have been doing this ever since the Premium Charge came in and have never paid it. By arbing with bookies and the Daq my Betfair P&L is fairly close to zero, they think I don't make any money. Combined with having two accounts, in different names, one at work and one at home so the IP's never get linked, I am assured of never having to pay a charge unless all of the bookies ban me or Betdaq and WBX cease to exist.

So whilst you are not missing anything, you see that this has nothing to do with juggling a winning trade while it is in play, there is no rush to offset.

But don't wait until you are £230k in front before you start reducing your "apparent" Betfair winnings.

30 June 2011 12:18

It's not a perfect solution but it is the only way I have heard of to prevent those pigs at Betunfair getting their snouts into our hard-earned troughs. If anyone knows of any other ways, I'm all ears! But for now, if you are new to trading, think very carefully about the future. And if you are already successful, why not think about setting up a new exchange? Cos until that American market opens up (which should kill Betfair dead in a few short years) we don't have much hope.

Flavia Pennetta:

Monday, 27 June 2011

Great Gambling, Terrible Trading

Serena OUT. Venus OUT. Wozniacki OUT. Lisicki, Paszek, Sharapova and Bartoli ALL through to the quarter finals. Every major prediction I made for the women's draw has come true. And what have I got to show for it? NOTHING!! It is times like these when I wish I was a gambler again. These predictions generally mean squat when you are a trader. But when you are going through a rough patch, these things become magnified and can cause you to start straying from your strategy. There's nothing more annoying than having an all-red screen from a game where you correctly predicted the winner. Even more so when you correctly predicted the winner over a week earlier, in writing and on your own blog!

The day off on Sunday had really done me a lot of good. I was refreshed and re-focused and ready to re-start my Wimbledon in the right frame of mind. And I was definitely fully focused as I began. But things just did not go for me. Tamira Paszek, my best tip of the tournament and probably any other tournament, failed to win the points I crucially needed her too. So despite winning the match as I'd expected and continuing her fantastic run, she let me down when I most needed her and I ended up losing money. That's just the way it goes and is something you have to take on the chin as a trader, where the short term is everything, but I let it affect me and ended up making that red twice as bad as it should have been and almost a whole lot worse. The exact same thing happened with Sabine Lisicki in her win over Cetkovska. The frustration prompted me to chase on the Tomic game and basically throw money down the toilet. I then failed to get matched by a split-second in the Sharapova game, which would have won me back my Paszek loss, as Maria went on to win. Once more, I could not profit from my early predictions.

In anger, I then threw my money onto Marion Bartoli, who I tipped (along with Sharapova) to win Wimbledon. I hinted on this very blog that she would beat Serena Williams, who I said would be out by this round at the latest. Frankly, I could not believe she was 2nd fave to win Wimbledon, the daftest price I've seen all year and was sorely tempted to actually place a bet in the outright winners market, laying the crap out of her. I would seriously have lost the plot if Bartoli had knocked out Williams and I'd not made any money. Fortunately, I did and it enabled me to calm down and sort my head out. I was unlucky with the Nadal loss as I was caught the wrong side of a large price shift following Nadal's injury. Typical of my Wimbledon.

I've decided that I will never write down any predictions for any match or tournament ever again! It was supposed to be a bit of fun but when your trading isn't going well, it suddenly becomes anything but that. Again, the fragile psychological equilibrium of the trader can be so easily disturbed. I would now quite like someone I didn't tip to win Wimbledon, though that doesn't leave much option! Of course, none of this matters if I trade properly and for much of today, I've been dodgier than a Venus Williams outfit. I predicted she would be out well before the final too, though I would never have gone for Pironkova to do the job. This girl only seems to bother playing at Wimbledon, the other 50 weeks of the year she can't string 2 wins together! I only hope the opposite is true of me.......

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Middle Sunday Misery

Normally I would be exceedingly angry that Wimbledon persists with this 'no-play on middle Sunday' debacle. Why oh why do they continue with this ridiculous 'tradition'? I've read that it's because they feel that play on this Sunday disrupts the flow of the tournament. Something to do with players playing on consecutive days I think. All the other slams play on this day and it doesn't appear to do them any harm. I don't recall any major indignation from any of the players. For me, it ruins the flow of the tournament for us spectators, who are just really getting into the excitement of it all, only to have nothing to watch on the one day that almost everyone has off work. Not to mention the fact that you could spread the games about a bit more and allow us traders an extra day on the ladders. However this year, I'm not quite so miserable. I suppose I could do with the day off and a chance to draw a line under what has been a tragic week. This has been my worst by a mile since The Dark Ages and my only losing week since March.

So why have things turned so sour? I think it's a mixture of factors. The fact it's on grass, as I've mentioned all month, is an issue and I continue to find it much harder to find wins on this surface. But that doesn't account for some of the daft trades I've been making. The lack of a decent scoreboard in the absence of Slamtracker has also limited my opportunities, as did the rain earlier in the week. But they are still not an excuse for my general sloppiness and poor decision making. No, the key factor in my declining standards still remains my inability to focus. It has now gotten to the stage where I am starting to get a little anxious. I've had these focus issues for a number of weeks now but have coped with them until this week, where I've no longer been able to get away with my lapses in concentration. But throughout Wimbledon so far, I've never been too worried, never felt as though I was going to slip deep into The Gambler's Cycle. I feel completely different to how I did in my last bad spell, where I almost sent myself crazy. It's only been a week though, there is still time!

Seriously though, I'm much more in control of my emotions and I've no fear of this becoming anything beyond a blip. I believe it's mostly because my mind keeps wandering to problems that I have in my personal life. I also think it's because I need a change of scenery. Staring at the same four walls and repeating the same trades day in day out is really starting to make me edgy, irritable and just in dire need of some variety. But I have to nip these focus issues in the bud quick-smart. If I can't deal with it now, how am I going to cope in years to come? If every time I have something personal on my mind, it affects my trading, I'm really going to struggle quite regularly. I need to find techniques to put the blinkers on, have complete tunnel-vision and switch off all the extraneous parts of my life. I also need to try and change my environment a bit within my trading room, just to stop it becoming too familiar and staid. I will be putting together a plan for next week on this day off.

As you can see from today's P&L, I began horribly. My brain was a whirlpool and I didn't know whether I was coming or going; flicking from one stream to another, not waiting long enough for good positions, watching 2 matches at a time, getting frustrated and entering the market when I shouldn't have and during this whole time, my mind constantly wandering to thoughts about my life. I also seem to have lost a lot of the verve and enthusiasm I had a few weeks ago and it has seriously affected my professionalism. I was at bursting point when I decided to summon up what tiny reserves of focus I had left, hidden within the very depths of my soul for one last push at the end of the day. I felt like a boxer on the ropes, blood streaming from the gashes across my lips, eyes shut almost tight from the swelling, desperately trying to stay upright as my legs wobbled from another shattering blow to the jaw as I reached for that final reserve of energy to keep me from hitting the canvas. It came as no surprise that as soon as I managed to properly focus, I produced 2 wins and finally put an end to this pathetic week with something minuscule to smile about.

I can only hope that week 2 will be as good as my Wimbledon predictions. If only I was a gambler and not a trader, I'd have made a mint! Sabine Lisicki, Tamira Paszek, Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli all remain in the tournament, with Lisicki and Paszek both producing huge upsets, as predicted. And if Sania Mirza hadn't gone out in round 1, I'm sure she'd have knocked out Wozniacki ;)

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I hate IBM

Well, I've had an absolute nightmare the first 3 days of Wimbledon. I'm a couple of hundred down and just cannot seem to get going. The most disconcerting thing is that I still seem unable to get properly focused and it's driving me mad. I think it's a combination of rain delays and that pathetic new IBM Pointstream, the new official Wimbledon website scoreboard. I'm sure you will already be aware of the furore this is causing for tennis traders this week. Basically, IBM used to have their own 'Slamtracker', which gave updates of all matches on one handy pop-out screen, during Grand Slams. It worked well and although the point updates were never quite as quick as the usual Livescore updates for standard tournaments, they were a million times better than what we have now. It's virtually useless for trading with, as not only is it 2 or 3 points behind the live action, it often updates 2 or 3 points at a time. And that's when it's working! Sometimes it can be a whole game behind, or even more from what I've been reading form the complaints on the Betfair forum. It's all a complete shambles and I don't understand why they've ditched what was an excellent facility for one that, whilst it looks flashy and has all the bells and whistles stats-wise, simply doesn't work as smoothly.

Of course, I'm sure the average user of the Pointstream probably doesn't care if it's a minute or two behind the live action but for us traders, it effectively ends any chance of trading on games which aren't on TV. Whether they have done this as a cost cutting excercise (Pointstream was there previously but they have jazzed it up and ditched Slamtracker) or whether they actually think we care about all the mountain of useless new stats (who on earth decides what these 'key to the matches' are? What a ridiculous idea!), it reeks of style over substance. I urge all you traders out there to email a complaint on the Wimbledon website and hopefully get Slamtracker back for the US Open.

Better still, contact IBM directly on this page:

Pointstream has eliminated the majority of the matches available at any one time for me to trade. If all 18 courts are in-play, then only 5 or 6 with TV coverage are available and with half of these having massive favourites at sub-1.10 prices, it leaves you with very little choice. Together with the rain delays, which have meant even more tradeable games rendered unplayable as the schedule becomes bunched together, it has left me struggling to get wins on the board. As a result, I've made a few errors out of sheer frustration, trying to force things to make up for lost time. I only have myself to blame for that of course but the whole week has been a real downer at a time when I really felt I was going to push forward. Instead I've taken several steps backwards.

There have been times over these 3 days where I started to feel as exasperated, angry and helpless as I did back in The Dark Ages - feelings I thought I'd left behind forever. The difference is, as I type this, I know that when I wake up and start Thursday's session, I will not start randomly chasing and making daft bets and I will probably get back to how I should be trading. I actually still made a profit on Monday, so that helped cushion the blow. But it's not the amount I've lost that irritates me, it's the way I've traded. I wanted to be patient and trade one game at a time and not rush around like a bull in a china shop like I did at the start of Roland Garros, where I was too eager. I actually didn't do that but the lack of opportunities eventually strained my patience and I made a few poor errors out of desperation. Anyway, onwards and upwards.........cheers IBM, keep up the good work.

Sunday, 19 June 2011


So here it is, another fortnight at the All-England Club for some jolly old Lawn Tennis. One of the biggest tournaments of the year of course but for me, I will be placing no significance on that whatsoever. I refuse to make the same mistakes I made at Roland Garros and pretty much every Grand Slam I've traded, where I put a huge emphasis on making more money than normal and upping my goals so that the tournament becomes a yard-stick of where I am at with my trading. This time, I won't be looking to do anything other than continue steadily making money, getting even tighter with those mistakes and even more consistent.

This past week has been a difficult one for me and one that I would quite like to just brush under the carpet. I had aimed to get to the root of the focus issues I'd been having but as it turned out, they were only highlighted even more. I had a stinker on the Monday, my mind just wasn't at the races and yet again, I was at a loss as to why I couldn't just get it together. As is becoming the norm though, I pulled it back round on Tuesday and was steady for the rest of the week. Unfortunately, there were so many disruptions due to rain in both tournaments, that I was unable to play a good chunk of matches. The gaps in play also wreaked havoc with my concentration as games were constantly stopping and re-starting. All of this meant that when I did trade, I was well below the standards I set for myself and on occasion was lucky not to suffer some large reds. All-in-all, I'm very pleased to get this week over and done with and relieved to come out of it with the profit I got.

So where do I go from here? Well, the whole spectacle and excitement of Wimbledon should be more than enough to get the juices flowing and I'd be massively surprised if I can't get focused every day. The only issue will be rain delays, of which it looks like there will be plenty. At least there is the roof on centre court, so there should always be something to watch. But looking further ahead post-Wimbledon, the tour returns to clay for a month, so I'm hoping that will enable me to re-focus and produce better results. I think the issue can be narrowed down to 2 things; lack of other mental stimulus and lack of breaks. I've noticed that when I do take some time out to go away and do something different for an hour, I return to the ladders in a much better frame of mind. The problem is, I don't ever take that break! It was almost impossible to do this over the past week due to all the uncertainty with rain delays. I always had one eye on the screen for updates and couldn't go away and commit to doing something else.

Wimbledon first week will have plenty of matches available, so missing one or two here and there won't be so difficult. This is the complete opposite of how I've approached every other Grand Slam, where I've hardly ever taken a break because I don't want to miss out on all the great opportunities that are constantly appearing. It's not going to be easy for me to just ignore a game that might look very appealing to trade but in the long run, I think it will help me. But I really must get this issue sorted quickly. It's infuriating because now, even though I am having the odd bad day due to poor focus, it's not putting the whole week in jeopardy as it has done in the past. One bad day would normally lead to several bad days but now, it rarely goes beyond that. So I'm one bad day a week from producing the consistency I need to be successful. It's almost as if I need that jolt to the system to make me focus and start producing.

As for Wimbledon itself, I really fancy a Murray v Federer final. I fully expect a Nadal v Murray semi final in the top half of the draw and in the bottom half, you can guarantee Roger will make it. The only real question mark is how will Djokovic react after his defeat to the Swiss maestro in Paris? Will the bubble burst now that the unbeaten run is over? Even if it doesn't, I would still favour Roger to win that semi and I'm not being biased as a Brit when I say that this could be Andy Murray's year. He's playing superbly on all surfaces and you couldn't say the same about Nadal right now. As for the rest of the pack, is there anyone who could produce an upset? Again, Juan Martin Del Potro looks the likeliest candidate and he is due to face Nadal very early in the draw. If there is going to be an upset, I'd say that is the game and possibly Nadal won't have gotten into his stride, being round 2 or 3. Djokovic is due to play Troicki around the same time and I know this will sound crazy but you just never know! If Novak has been deflated by Roland Garros (and don't forget, he's not played a grass court tournament in the run-in), Troicki might just take advantage. He has the weapons to do well on grass and is in the form of his life - remember, he should have knocked Murray out of the French Open. I suppose the fact he didn't says as much about him as it does about Murray though! Anyway, it's just an idea I'm throwing out there because in all honesty, I'm grasping at straws for a major upset with the men! There's more chance of another 3 day marathon match between Isner and Mahut than one of the top 4 not winning Wimbledon. I wonder what the odds are on that? Worth a penny or two?!

With the women however, it's a different kettle of fish. Clijsters is injured, though I'm 100% certain she would not have won anyway. The big interest is the return of the Williams sisters. Anyone who watched Eastbourne will tell you that Serena has no chance. She managed to beat Pironkova but then, she could have still had that blood clot on her lung and still over-come Ronkers, who is having a horror year. She looked better in her defeat to Zvonareva but was clearly well below the fitness standards required to win a Grand Slam, as Vera edged past a visibly knackered Williams. It says a lot about the quality of the WTA when you see the world number 2 just squeezing past someone who has not played a game in a whole year and almost died just a few months earlier! But with Aravane Rezai followed by potentially Kirilenko and Bartoli, I can assure you Serena will be going out early.

The same can be said when analysing Venus's games as she beat 2 top 20 players before Hantuchova knocked her out. Venus is due to face Mad Vera in round 4 and there I would expect the lack of match fitness to catch her up and the Russian to be too strong for her. She may also face Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez or Jankovic before then, so either one will be a tough contest and may produce an upset. As for the rest, one name stands out about all else - Maria Sharapova. It almost feels right, as though this year is destined to be the year that she returns to re-capture the crown she won, what, 7 years ago? Things just seem to be pulling together for her at the right time and she is my personal fave to take the trophy. Goerges and Petkovic both look to be running out of steam after good clay seasons. Kuznetsova? Don't make me laugh! This girl has concentration and mental issues that even put me to shame! Stosur for me, still isn't anywhere near her consistent best. Li could face Sabine Lisicki in round 2 and that could be the end of the road the way the German is playing. Watch out for her because as an outsider, she is the one most likely to cause an upset. Plus, she loves grass and has just won Birmingham. Wozniacki? Same as The French, someone with a big game will knock her out eventually. She potentially has Sania Mirza in round 2. I know it sounds crazy but....................!! More realistically, Gajdosova, Goerges and Sharapova are in her quarter of the draw. No chance.

Zvonareva has reached the final before, so we know she can do it but she remains well short of her best lately and so I will say she won't win. Marion Bartoli is another losing finalist of old but this year, I believe she CAN win. Her form is probably the best of her career and she beats the very best week-in, week-out. So I'm going with Sharapova or Bartoli for the title. I kind of want to say Kvitova and Azarenka too but they let me down in Paris so I'm leaving them out. Along with Lisicki I will add Jelena Dokic for a possible upset. She has Schiavone first round, which should be quite a game and I think the Dok has a great chance of duffing up the Italian on her least favourite surface. Just for fun, I'm also going to go very leftfield and pick a complete outsider to do well, so I'm going with................Tamira Paszek. Loves grass, great young talent, in top form and seems to like the big stage. Plus, her quarter of the draw lacks the big names that the others have. Happy trading everyone!

Monday, 13 June 2011

The Green, Green, Grass of Home

I've finally settled into the grass court season. Today was another good day and that's almost a full week of profitable days now. I was able to tweak my system, primarily by thinking and making trades on a slightly longer term basis, and ended up with a strong profit for the start of the grass-court season despite the bad first couple of days. So I'm no longer concerned about the rest of the month and feel relieved that really there is nothing more I need to think about tinkering with, regarding my system. It's pretty much the finished article now; I know exactly how to approach each type of surface, which was the last remaining major issue I had. It's a great feeling to finally be able to say that I'm 100% happy with my strategy. 16 months of hard graft has finally come to fruition!

So now there is no obstacle in my way for continuing to gradually increase stakes. Tomorrow, I will be adding another 33%, which will leave me close to the amount I was using when I first started this blog. The difference in my ROI between then and now is huge, so I expect to be making larger sums per day on a good day, than I was back in February. So my main focus will now turn back towards my psychological approach. I still obviously have not attained that level of mental strength that I desire and will require in order to be successful with trading as my sole income. I still occasionally lose my full stake, believe it or not, which is something that really should never happen with my experience. And I've had a few issues with losing half stakes a few times in recent weeks, which seems to be something psychological to do with the fact I'm using less liability than usual. I'm working my way through that one now! But my research still shows time and time again, and it still glaringly obviously stares out at me off the page after every week when I look back on my written records - when I'm properly focused, I trade well, when I'm distracted or in the wrong frame of mind, I make errors. And although I've known this for a long time now, for some reason, I still end up having days where I just can't seem to get it together.

It is only usually one day a week, two at the most, but that one day of poor concentration can be the difference between me doubling my bank for the week or instead, looking back in anguish at what could have been. My focus levels are vastly improved from how they were 6 months ago but I'm disappointed at the lack of improvement in recent weeks. I expected this area to kick-on in the same way that everything else has with my trading but it appears to have stagnated and I'm not quite sure what to do next. Like I say, most days are fine but I just can't maintain the level that I need on every day.

I guess it's not surprising considering I trade every single day. I probably need to take a day off each week but I find it very hard to just chill-out at the moment and so I end up itching to get back to the ladders instead of trying to take it easy. I see that as a good thing though because it means my enthusiasm for trading is high and I want to push forward and make more money. But there are times when I just get a bit bored during sessions and my mind wanders to other stimulus. Finding that balance of when to rest the mind and the techniques required to re-focus quickly are something I will be working on this week. I need to dig a little deeper and work on strategies such as more exercise breaks, continually talking to myself and just stopping and doing something different every now and then. I think I still have a tendency to try and push through those difficult periods and fight against the lack of focus, rather than admit defeat.

Overall though, things are continuing to advance at a steady pace and if it hadn't been for the gorgeous Maria Kirilenko's failure to convert break points from 0-40 on two occasions today, I would have been sitting on a 3 figure day! Only on grass would Kimiko Date-Krumm be able to serve her way out of that trouble! It's happened on several occasions with the women over the past few days and it's driving me nuts. I still can't wait to get back to the red-dirt!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A Pain in the Grass

Well, my grass court fears came very much true this week. After having such a good clay-court season, I was worried that the change to a quicker surface might adversely affect my system and my success rate. I have really struggled to get wins on the board over the first 3 days. It's been a combination of straight-forward wins for a lot of favourites, very few breaks and a market which is heavily weighted towards the server. The tactic of backing on serve is almost a non-starter in most men's matches, as the rewards are even smaller than usual and the downside now far too risky to even contemplate, with enormous swings at even the hint of a break. But those breaks are so few and far between that going against the server has proved ineffective in most games I've been following. There has been some hard court action in Copenhagen but my frustration with the ATP lead to me making a couple of huge errors with the WTA as I tried to work back losses and so all-round, it's been a bad few days. Thank God this only lasts for one month!

I had the same issues when the season moved from hard to clay courts though and after a shaky start, once I'd adjusted and tweaked a few things, I was in my element. I think things will be better once I've settled down to the change in pace and there are more WTA streams I can watch. I also think that the match-ups will get better during the latter stages of tournaments and there should be more to work with regarding prices. That said, I would actually be in profit but for a loss of discipline in just one game, so I can't be too down-hearted and as you can see from Wednesday's P&L, I have started to turn things around. I think my strategy will be to strip back my entry points, be more patient and prioritise WTA over ATP far more than I would on clay. I have been trying a little too hard to force things, getting involved too often and all of this is because I've had to wait (often in vain) much longer for opportunities to appear. It's that old patience game again! Or maybe I'm just disorientated from seeing the likes of Andreas Seppi and Daniel Gimeno-Traver on grass. It just seems WRONG, somehow!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Becoming Sharapova

Is there anyone in the game with a stronger mentality than Maria Sharapova? Certainly not in the women's game. And I'll tell you something for a fact, she has a tougher mind than ATP world number 4 Andy Murray! Murray gets angry with himself on court, chunters away to his team and berates his poor play with profanity and the kind of sulky, heel-dragging body language that you would expect of a 5 year old. Murray often doesn't wake up until he's lost the first set and regularly let's players back into matches when he is cruising comfortably. Sharapova is the complete opposite. She plays every point with the same steely intensity, whether it's the first point of the match, 6-0 and 5-0 ahead or a set down. And when she plays a bad point, she does that little routine where she goes quietly to the back of the court, turns her back, looks at her racquet, re-focuses, puts the last mistake behind her, turns around and just gets straight back on with the game as though it had never happened. I remember ages ago, someone on the Betfair forum was moaning about how Maria never smiles and plays with a face like a 'slapped arse'. Well mate, that's what they call 'focus'. It's pure, 100% determination to win at all times and that's what marks out those who are great champions from those who are also-rans.

We traders need to take a leaf out of Sharapova's book, with the way she plays and deals with adversity and probably do the opposite to Andy Murray. I can guarantee you he would struggle with trading! Whilst he was 5-0 down to Victor Troicki, grumbling about his bad ankle and looking as though he was barely even trying, Sharapova, a set and 4-1 down to Caroline Garcia and getting thoroughly outplayed, never changed her attitude for one moment. She knew she was getting out-hit by a player on fire and just needed to dig in, not get frustrated, show her opponent she wasn't worried and wait for the storm to pass. She never gave in at any point and though she was struggling, she never let her opponent see that she was in trouble, with her expressions.

Yes, Murray came back against the Serb but only because he suddenly decided with one more game till he lost the set, to stop moaning and feeling sorry for himself and actually focus on his game-plan. He changed by becoming more aggressive and knuckling-down but where was that at the start? You can argue that he still won but he left it too late to win that first set and did it the hard way when there was no need. Whenever he focused, he was the best player by a mile. You get the feeling he almost needs to fall behind before he produces his best. Or maybe he just under-estimates lesser opponents? He wouldn't be the only player like that but would Federer or Nadal have that attitude? Not a chance! And neither would the top women's stars, such as the Williams sisters, who always look to dominate, win every point and end the game as quickly as possible.

As a trader, my ultimate goal is to achieve that level of consistency, where I'm always calm during a storm, where I always have a high level of concentration, where I never under-estimate any situation I'm in and where I can brush off any mistakes as though they never happened. How close am I to achieving this? Well, out of those 4 goals I mentioned, I failed on at least one occasion for all of them this week. But I don't expect to have a blemish free record these days. I know it's not possible for me to be 100% all day every day. But what I can say is that the level of consistency for these goals is a million times better than it was a couple of months ago and is improving week by week. I'm getting close to becoming Sharapova - and leaving behind the Andy Murray within!

Just a quick note on this weekend's French Open finals. The women play today and it's a final that not many would have predicted at the start of the tournament. Both women have had very similar seasons; an excellent Australian Open followed by 4 months of abject performances, where they could barely string two wins together. They have peaked at just the right time, whilst other players with much better form coming into Roland Garros, have tailed off. Li Na has had a much tougher route to the final and I would make her slight favourite. However, the memory of her loss to Clijsters in Australia, where she threw away a set lead, may come back to haunt her, whilst Frankie has been here and done it before and loves the big match atmosphere. If I had to pick a winner, I'd go with Li Na simply because she has impressed me so much during the week with her level of play. Besides, she knocked out my 2 major tips for the title, so it will make me feel better if she takes the crown!

As for the men, I'm still reeling from Federer's performance against Djokovic. It was an awesome match of the highest quality, up there with Murray v Djokovic from Rome. Fed surprised everyone with his level of play; gone were the massive shanks and shaky back-hands which had been so prevalent in recent meetings with the world number one and two and we saw the return of his unplayable, clutch serving and reliable, dominant forehand. Djokovic still somehow managed to almost drag him back from 2 sets down and had it gone to a 5th set, I would have fancied the Serb. But Roger was playing tennis at a level we've not seen from him for many months, if not years. With that in mind, you'd have to give him a much stronger chance of winning than anyone would have at the start of Roland Garros. Nadal is still not at his best, though the windy conditions of the semi final made his performance seem less impressive than it actually was. I haven't got much right in my predictions for this tournament so I won't even attempt to pick a winner here.......OK I will - Nadal! Purely for the fact that Djokovic was still in a great position to win that 4th set, despite Federer's fantastic display. Over 5 sets, I always fancy the Spaniard.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Containing the Excitement

So we are down to the final 4 at Roland Garros. Absolutely no surprise with the men and currently, I'd have to stick with Djokovic for the crown. Nadal has not been at his best, though he upped his game against Soderling, who started their quarter final looking a decent prospect for an upset. I'm gonna stick with my prediction of Nadal v Djokovic for the final. Murray has a great chance to defeat Rafa but as we've seen all week, his concentration dips up and down alarmingly in these best of 5 set ties and whilst he's gotten away with it against the likes of Troicki and Chela , he won't get that luxury against any of the top 3. But you never know, he may just realise that in the semi and pull off a shock. He won't get a better chance on clay.

The women's event has been very interesting. My two big tips, Azarenka and Kvitova, were both knocked out by Li Na. She has really knuckled down this tournament as since her defeat in the Australian Open final, she basically lost focus and was playing poorly. She's rectified that in Paris and has shown greater control in her play, instead of having matches where she'd just look to blast every ball for a winner. She is constructing points much better and the consistency in her groundstrokes is phenomenal right now. But I've said all along that Sharapova will take some stopping and she's my new tip to win this. Li has the game to beat her but the way Maria is playing, I think she's pretty much unplayable. Her groundstrokes are so deep and consistent and she's tightened up on her serving from earlier in the year. On these quick clay courts with the speedy Babolat balls, it's made for a big hitter this year and you can see that in the final 4, with 3 of the protagonists playing a power game more suited traditionally to hard courts.

In the other semi, Schiavone is having a great tournament but really, Pavlyuchenkova should've knocked her out. The Russian, one of my favourite players, demolished her for a set but she tends to lose concentration too easily. She has all the shots and has wonderful control of her power, something which most women her age tend to struggle with. But her inexperience really showed as she threw away a semi-final berth. I doubt Bartoli would do that, she's been around a long time and has beaten top 10 players on numerous occassions. I'm not a fan of the French woman. All her jumping around and frantic practice swings in between points are annoying and she seems to have added manic fist clenching and piercing screeches of 'ALLEZ!' after pretty much every point now. And I'm sure her Dad was coaching her from the stands in the quarter final. I hope Franny does her good and proper, I'd much rather see her exciting brand of all-court tennis and showmanship than the metronomic Bartoli in the final. The key could be Bartoli's movement. I thought she did remarkably well against Kuznetsova, retrieving a lot of balls along the baseline but let's face it, Kuzzy played like a Klown and lost a match she really should have won; on clay against an opponent who was just far too wound-up and on edge. Schiavone should be able to take advantage of Bartoli's poor movement and get her sweating to reach drop shots and slices. Whatever happens, I don't see either winning the final, whoever they play.

As for me, well right now, I'm feeling fantastic. I'm so excited about the way my trading is going and the potential that is finally being realised. Ever since the first 3 days of The French Open, where I ballsed-up massively, I've produced a week of undoubtedly the best trading I've ever done. I've had the odd week where I've made more money but never have I had such a high ROI and most importantly, never have I felt so at ease with my system or trading in general. I'm really enjoying every day now and the self-belief that had been battered out of me during 'The Dark Ages', has gradually filtered back, to the point where I now have to struggle to contain it! I'm very wary of getting over-confident, so it is genuinely something I look to keep in check as part of my daily goals but nonetheless, it certainly feels good to experience it.

With only 6 games left this week, (the second week of any Grand Slam is always a pisser for traders) I will be taking the time for some much needed refreshment and planning time. My only slight worry now is how the change from clay to the grass court season, which begins next week, will affect my trading. I remember struggling with it last year, though the difference between my system and myself as a trader since then, is enormous, so adjusting shouldn't cause too many issues. The grass courts are actually getting slower these days and the clay courts faster, so the difference between Roland Garros and Wimbledon is not as pronounced as it has been in the past. But I do enjoy the surface changes that appear throughout the year, adds variety and a new challenge for me as a trader. If all goes well in the next couple of weeks, I will be increasing my stakes again for Wimbledon and this time, they will be as high as I was using at the start of this blog. Exciting times ahead!